Principles of Discipleship: Christ First Calls Us to Himself

Many churches are changing. All over the world, churches have fallen into the “success syndrome.” The measure of whether or not they are getting the job done has become little more than keeping score. I am grateful to God for the number of people who attend our church, for the generous giving on the part of God’s people, and for the many who come to know Christ as Saviour; but the measure of our ministry must always be in our likeness to Christ.

In many churches, the pastor is no longer the shepherd; he serves as the CEO. Believers in the church I pastor would revolt if I tried to teach that one could become a Christian without Christ. I would have a real mutiny on my hands, but there is no difference between attempting to teach someone to become a Christian without Christ and attempting to live the Christian life without Christ. It cannot be done.

If we are going to have spiritual ends, we must have spiritual means. Consider this truth as you read Matthew 4:12-20. Make special note of the expression in the nineteenth verse, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” The believer is to follow Christ and fish for men.

There are no self-made spiritual men. Notice in the heart of this verse, the Lord says, “I will make you.” We do not make ourselves. He makes us.

The Principle

Everything We Do With and for Men Should Be Preceded by Our Time With God.

Out of our worship comes our work. Many have placed an emphasis on “follow up” to the neglect of “following Him.” Following Him precedes fishing for men. The principle is very clear. Everything we do with and for men must be preceded by our time with God. The first call on our lives is to be “with him” (Mark 3:14).

If it is my responsibility to come to the pulpit and preach, I cannot preach as a pastor should preach unless I have first been with Christ. This principle is for every area of the Christian life. If you are a parent, you are to minister to your children and care for them. You cannot do for those children what you should do without following Christ. Those who sing solos in the church services must place Christ first, then their singing. A Christian businessman who has employees cannot do what he should do as an employer without following Christ.

What is our great error? We rush and search for shortcuts. We do everything we can to eliminate the need for God so we can run ahead and do what we know we can do on our own.

The worst thing that happens to us is not when we fail. Our greatest failures take place as we succeed in areas that are not God’s will and are not true to the clear teachings of God. We build a business without spending time with God. We grow a church without spending time with God. We get a family to obey without spending time with God. We get the work done without spending time with God.

The worst thing is not that we fail; the worst thing is if we succeed having left Christ out. There is such an important principle here. The Lord Jesus said, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.”

The Priority

Following Christ and Fishing for Men

The priority established in Matthew 4:12-20 is following Christ and fishing for men. What does this mean? The Lord Jesus Himself said in Luke 19:10, “For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.” The Lord Jesus found men who had been catching live fish and casting them aside to die. He called them to fish for men who were dead in their trespasses and sins and would be made alive through the Lord Jesus Christ. This is the priority.

Most of us find something to do in God’s work other than fishing for men. So many go through the motions of Christianity but miss the priority God has given. People are lost without God and must be born again. Christians have a greater work to do than simply making the world a better place from which to go to hell.

My dear friend Dr. Lee Roberson said many times in my presence that most Christians do more witnessing to the lost in the first six months they are saved than they do in the rest of their lives. Why is this? Could it be they are nearer the cross, closer to God, and still thrilled about what God has done for them?

Following Christ and fishing for men must remain our priority. If we lose this, what are we to do? Let us pray, “Lord, help me to be willing to admit that my priority is wrong if my priority is not fishing for men.”

The Progression

As We Follow Christ, He Makes Us Fishers of Men

It is the Lord Jesus who transforms our lives. Before Christ, we were not fishers of men, we were fishers of fish; we were involved in other things. If we are “fishers of men,” it is because He has made us fishers of men. The Lord’s promise says, “I will make you.”

As we move to the headwaters of this verse, we find that God says, “Follow me.” What does all of this mean? If we are not fishing for men, it is because He did not make us fishers of men. If He did not make us fishers of men, it is because we are not following Him. If we are following Him, He is going to make us fishers of men. His passion will become our passion. His purpose will become our purpose. We will be fishers of men.

This is very difficult for me to admit, but when I am not conscious of souls, and when I am not speaking to people about Christ as I should, there is only one reason for it. It is because Jesus Christ does not hold the place in my life that He should hold. If He truly holds the place He should hold in my life, then there is no doubt that He will make me a fisher of men. One can go after the lost without following Christ, but he cannot truly follow Christ without going after the lost.

Are you having a problem with the right priorities in your life? You say, “I’m just as busy as I can be, but I see no one come to Christ.” Let us deal with the real issue. We follow Christ by abiding in Him (John 15:4). We follow Christ as we rejoice in Him each day. He gives us His joy (John 15:11). He has called us to be “with him,” and then He sends us forth to preach (Mark 3:14). It is our call to be “with him” that must take the priority over all else in life. Only as He has His rightful place in our lives can all else have its rightful place in our lives.

Featured photo by Thomas Despeyroux on Unsplash

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